Lechuguilla Cave

Has anybody reading this ever visited Lechuguilla Cave?

Lechuguilla Cave is, as of 2006, the sixth longest cave (120 mi, or 193 km) known to exist in the world, and the deepest in the continental United States (489 m, or 1604 ft), but it is most famous for its unusual geology, rare formations, and pristine condition.

Lechuguilla Cave was known until 1986 as a small, fairly insignificant historic site in the park’s backcountry. Small amounts of bat guano were mined from the entrance passages for a year under a mining claim filed in 1914. The historic cave contained a 90-foot (27 m) entrance pit which led to 400 feet (120 m) of dry dead-end passages.[1]

The cave was visited infrequently after mining activities ceased. However, in the 1950s cavers heard wind roaring up from the rubble-choked floor of the cave. Although there was no obvious route, different people concluded that cave passages lay below the rubble. A group of Colorado cavers gained permission from the National Park Service and began digging in 1984. The breakthrough, into large walking passages, occurred on May 26, 1986.[1]

Since 1984, explorers have mapped 118 miles of passages and have pushed the depth of the cave to 1604 feet (489 m), ranking Lechuguilla as the 6th longest cave in the world (4th longest in the United States) and the deepest limestone cave in the country. Cavers, drawn by the caves’ pristine condition and rare beauty, come from around the world to explore and map its geology.


  1. Getting a permit to explore Leguchilla is extremely difficult, and discouraged by veteran cavers. The damage done to nearby Carlsbad Caverns by tourism is extensive. A friend of mine who is a member of the Nat’l Speliological Society discouraged me from even writing about Leguchilla unless I explained the importance of non-intervention.

  2. One of my vivid childhood memories is taking one of those classic 60’s panneled sided station wagon trips to the Luray Caverns. They are in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I wonder how they are being preserved today.

  3. they covered it on BBC’s planet earth series, though no discouragement towards visiting was mentioned

    very beautiful. they said 118 miles have been maped, but much more remains

  4. I see that the responses here are fairly old, but since noone previously was able to respond I thought I would write. I was there for three expeditions quite a few years ago. The cave is what might be called a “cavers cave” very technical, very long, and breathtakingly spectacular. The BBC only shot in one area of the cave, near the Chandelier Maze and the entrance passage leading up to Boulder Falls. It is not possible to visit the cave outside of being on a scientific or mapping expedition and spots on those small teams is limited mainly to those who have significant credentials in the caving world and adequate knowledge of the cave itself. The BBC did a pretty good job hinting at the beauty of the cave but it is just too big and too amazing to really take in without going there. The sensitivity and layout of the cave will preclude it from ever being commercialized.

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